Machine Research Project – Kinetic Wave Sculptures

While brainstorming for this project, I recalled a few mechanical sculptures that had fascinated me and decided to do some research on one particular type: the kinetic wave sculptures for which artist Reuben Margolin are known for (http://www.reubenmargolin.com/waves/). These sculptures are inspired by and simulate the interaction of sinusoidal waves across multiple dimensions.

The basic construction of these sculptures is as follows: a system of motors power a multi-dimensional wheel and axle system or camshaft system that is rigged to control a pulley system. This pulley system then controls the movement of the installation, which is usually 3-dimensional assembly of wooden dowels, steel bottles, or any number of materials that are uniformly fastened together and suspended via pulley strings. With each pulley calibrated to spin at a rate equivalent to some sinusoidal pattern, all parts of the assemblage move in unison while still reflecting these fluid patterns. Depending on how the assemblage is constructed, how the pulleys are arranged, and choice of wave patterns, an infinite number of possibilities can be constructed with the same fundamental idea. In some sculptures, the assemblage only moves along 1 axis (up and down, for example), in other designs, the assemblage moves about all 3 spatial axes, which creates beautiful structures that can fluidly morph into different shapes (see http://www.reubenmargolin.com/waves/YellowSpiral/yellowSpiral_video.html).

I think these sculptures are especially cool because although the basic mechanical solution for simulating waves is not complex, creative application of the idea allows for an infinite number of bespoke variations. I chose this machine because curves, waves, and gentle fluid motion has always struck me as especially beautiful. Perhaps it is because they are so fundamental to the laws of nature that they are not only seen but sensed at all times. I did my research primarily via YouTube-hopping interesting mechanical sculptures! 🙂

Here are few more links that gave me more insights:

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2 Responses to Machine Research Project – Kinetic Wave Sculptures

  1. Charlie says:

    This reminds of the Lumiere (Beauty and the Beast) animatronic, how its controlled by multiple pulleys and motors behind the wall creating very complex and realistic movements.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LT5AhArCkCs

  2. I saw this a few years ago and was really impressed by his craftsmanship. The really important lesson from this, is that with time, patience, and hard work anyone can make something that is complex and beautiful. He didn’t get it right on the first try, but by persevering and trying again, he has learned from every project and is able to make the next one even more impressive.

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